Huatulco Life was inspired by people with a passion for Huatulco and the Mexican lifestyle. It is a place to find out more information about the region and enjoy the beauty of the Oaxacan coastline through the photo gallery. From time to time, other interesting tidbits about Mexico make their way into the pages of this blog. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

5 Days in Oaxaca - Day Three

Oaxaca Diary by Renée Netzel

The day of the Guelaguetza has arrived! We have waited for over a year to attend this festival and we were excited to finally have the opportunity to experience it.

The Guelaguetza, also called the Lunes del Cerro, or "Mondays on the Hill," is celebrated in the city of Oaxaca on the last two Mondays of July, except when one of these falls on July 18th (which is the anniversary of the death of Benito Juárez), in which case it takes place was the case this year as the festival was held on July 25 and August 1. Additionally, there are two showings each Monday, at 10 am and at 5 pm. We chose the later we eased our way into the day, ate a delicious breakfast at our B&B (Casa de Las Bugambilias) and generally just wandered around town until it was time to go.

Since colonial times the festival, whose origins date back more than 400 years, has been celebrated on the Fortin Hill (Cerro del Fortin). A special auditorium was eventually built specifically for this celebration called The Guelaguetza Auditorium. It seats about 11,000 people and offers a gorgeous view of the city below. In addition, a new "floating" roof was added just this past year offering a little protection from the sun and afternoon rain showers. At 4:30pm, we caught a taxi to take us up to the show and it was amazing to see the crowds lining up on the long hill leading up to the auditorium. We were actually a little worried that we would be dumped at the end of this VERY VERY long line but we were taken almost right to the front entrance...WHEW! We later learned that tickets in Section A & B are $400 pesos each but tickets in Section C & D are free so all those people were lined up in hopes of a free show. After waiting in a much shorter line, we were very fortunate to be escorted to our paid seats right in the center of the second row, along with a couple of complimentary Guelaguetza t-shirts and straw hats, a nice touch!

The word Guelaguetza means "an offering, gift or present" in the Zapotec language, and the festival is a celebration in which communities within Oaxaca come together and celebrate the diversity of their traditions and cultures. The state of Oaxaca is home to 16 different ethnolinguistic groups and the seven regions that meet at the Guelaguetza are: The Central Valleys, Sierra Juárez, La Cañada, Tuxtepec, La Mixteca, La Costa (the Coast), and the Istmo (Isthmus) of Tehuantepec. Each region presents its most valuable traditions and heritage through folk dances, music, songs and costumes. At the end of their dance they throw various presents, or "offerings", into the crowd such as fruits, food, and handcrafts from their region.

The show was about to begin...and you could feel the tension and excitement in the air! The music started and out came the large spherical lanterns and the "gigantes" (colorfully dressed people on stilts), also called the "chinas oaxaqueñas". Following them were women carrying baskets decorated with flowers on their heads...and then the Goddess Centéotl, who presides over the festival and who is elected, not for being the most beautiful or elegantly attired, but who is considered most representative and understanding of the traditions of her pueblo. It was incredible...and I have to admit that I was overcome with emotion...the music was loud, the dancers were beautiful, and the crowd was roaring! Wow.

Without being there in person, it really is quite hard to express the feeling you get while watching these traditional expressions of dance and culture. Throughout the 4-hour spectacle we watched the Dance of the Valley (Jarabe del Valle) and the Dance of the Bottle (Jarabe de la Botella). From Tuxtepec, we witnessed the amazing Flower of the Pineapple dance (Flor de Piña) with more than 20 beautiful women dancing synchronized, shoulder to shoulder in a colorful costumes. Then more dances called Las Chilenas, Popurri de Sonnes, and Jarabe de la Rosa. One of the crowd favorites was from the Istmo de Tehuantepec dancing The Turtle (La Tortuga) in very elaborate and flowery velvet dresses. And the Sones de Pochutla from the Region de la Costa were soon to follow. Near the closing of the Guelaguetza came one of the most representative dances of Oaxaca...The Dance of the Feather (Danza de la Pluma). This folkloric dance is performed by men, who were very fit I might add, with colorful huge plumes on their heads. These plumes are decorated with mirrors and various other traditional items...and wow, can they jump!

And, after every single dance performance, each group threw their regional gifts into the crowd. You can imagine, sitting in the second row, that we managed to do quite well! It was a rush to see everyone jumping up and down and ripping open their prize...and it was really quite funny seeing everything from bread to tortillas to tamales, coffee, chocolate and mole sauce, and also limes, bananas, apples and even pineapples (yes, pineapples!) being launched from the stage.

As we left the auditorium, bags and shirts stuffed with goodies, we paused to watch the fireworks outside and appreciate the silly grins that hadn't left our faces since the beginning of the night. It was a long night...but one that we will not soon forget!

Please visit the gallery for more photos from the Guelaguetza.


  1. Sounds amazing, would love to see it.

  2. Great pictures, Great descriptive wording. Enjoyed reading about the true Mexico
    Ed N